Sunday, March 08, 2009

Legislation proposes overhauling Texas top 10 percent law

Catie Beck | Austin 8 News

The University of Texas at Austin is a top choice for many high school seniors but some state lawmakers say it's not a likely choice for prospective students at all if they don't graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.

"If you aren't in the top ten percent of your class than you have no chance or little chance of going to the University of Texas," Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said.

Sen. Shapiro wants to improve chances for students by capping the number of top 10 percent admissions to 50 percent of an incoming freshman class.

"Many of them have other gifts other than being in the top 10 percent." Rep. Rob Eisler, R-The Woodlands, said.

This fall the University of Texas had over 80 percent of its freshman class from the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class. Students have mixed reviews about it overall.

"I'd say it's a good idea. Even though people may be mad at first it will be better in the long run," UT freshman Meghan Lindsey said.

Others who were admitted because of the rule say that changing it now would disappoint many hard working students.

"To be in the top 10 percent and to be performing well and to be told the rule had changed � that would bring stress that you don't need," UT sophomore Dean Pham said.

Shapiro said by 2011 the University of Texas could be getting 100 percent of its students through the 10 percent rule. She said not only is Texas losing talented students of other varieties but the university is also losing Texas students all together.

"They're going other places because they can't get in to Texas," Shapiro said.

UT President William Powers supports the reform bill. He considers the current situation a "crisis on our campus." Minority groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) say getting rid of the top 10 percent rule would discourage minorities from attending college.

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The top 10 percent law was adopted in 1997 after a federal appeals court ruling and a subsequent state attorney general's opinion effectively ended affirmative action practices in Texas. It was argued that the new law would bring about diversity without including race or ethnicity as a factor in admissions process.

Two 2003 U.S. Supreme Court rulings ruled in favor of a holistic review of student applicants, considering race and ethnicity permitted by the law to the full extent. The UT President says if the state decides to adopt the rulings of Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger the university can better diversify the student body.

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